New Traffic Study Confirms a Popular Stereotype About Japanese People

After a recent study looked into the behaviors of Japanese and French pedestrians in obeying traffic laws, certain perceptions about the two nationalities are now backed by science.

A paper published in the journal Royal Society Open Science on Wednesday suggested that the common stereotypes that Japanese commuters are law-abiding citizens and the French, being quite the opposite, may actually hold water.

The group of researchers headed by Cedric Sueur of Strasbourg University in eastern France studied pedestrian behavior at three crossings in Strasbourg, France and four in Nagoya, Japan. They kept track of 3,814 crossings in Strasbourg and 1,631 in Nagoya, observing how people in the two countries break the law. 

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The research team has found that an astounding 41.9% of French pedestrians cross the road even when the traffic signal tells them not to. Japanese commuters fare significantly better, with only just 2.1%. It was also revealed that men aged 20 to 30 were more likely to cross the red light than women and older people.

The difference, researchers have concluded, may have been highly influenced by the two societies’ varying degrees of social conformity, according to AFP.

“The French have less respect for the rules. … We are less concerned with social approval,” Sueur was quoted as saying. “It’s not that the fear of a ticket is bigger in Japan than in France. It’s that people (in Japan) are more concerned about the opinion of others.”

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The research also noted that further research involving more countries could help traffic engineers improve safety regulations on a regional basis.

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